How to Build Muscle Density

Dense muscle is well-defined but generally is not bulky.
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Muscle density refers to the amount of lean muscle tissue in your body in comparison to the amount of fatty tissue. This differs from muscle mass, which typically refers to the size of the muscles; dense muscles are not necessarily large, but they contain dense muscle fiber and produce more power than larger muscles that aren't as dense. Building muscle density is useful for individuals who want to increase their strength without bulking up and who wish to improve their overall fitness level.

Pre-Workout Preparations

    Eat a snack or light lunch that is high in protein and carbohydrates approximately an hour before you begin working out to ensure that you have energy for your workout but aren't so full that you'll make yourself sick while exercising. You should also drink cool water approximately 20 minutes before working out to ensure that you are properly hydrated.

    Develop a training schedule that includes both weight training and aerobic training. The weight training that you perform will develop the density of your muscles over time while the aerobic training will reduce your overall body fat and increase your endurance. Aerobic training days should be placed in between weight training days to allow your muscles time to rest and recover after your weight training. Make sure that you schedule at least one rest day per week as well to allow your body time to relax and recuperate.

    Stretch and perform warm-up exercises before your workout, regardless of whether you are lifting weights or performing other exercises. Stretching and warming-up prevent injuries and prepare your muscles for the work ahead.

Weight Training

    Lift free weights such as dumbbells and barbells instead of machine-based weights if possible. Free weights promote full-body muscular involvement because your muscles have to work together to stabilize the body during a lift, resulting in a better workout for muscle density.

    Lift heavy weights, doing only three to six repetitions at a time and allowing up to three minutes between reps if necessary. Although some experts recommend using lighter weights with a larger number of repetitions, high-rep weight training is used more to add muscle mass instead of developing muscle density. Developing density requires your muscles to be put under strain that only heavier weights can provide so that the body will adjust its muscle density in response.

    Perform up to 10 sets of lifts during your weight training, but do not push yourself to the point of exhaustion. Muscle density develops as your muscles heal from the microscopic tears they develop during heavy lifting, but pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion can cause more significant muscle damage. If you feel that you can't continue with your lifting, stop. Don't risk injury to try and add another set to your workout.

Aerobic Training

    Select aerobic exercises that work muscle groups that aren't used as much on your weight training days. Exercises that focus on the legs or abs while working the whole body such as running, swimming and yoga serve as a complement to the work that you do when lifting and help you to burn fat to gain better muscle definition.

    Perform at least 75 to 150 minutes of aerobic exercises per week depending on intensity, either with a single exercise type or multiple types of aerobics. Each exercise session should last at least 10 minutes to provide the maximum benefit to the muscles being worked and to the cardiovascular system.

    Add low-intensity or slow paced aerobics such as walking and water aerobics to your workout if you experience excessive soreness after your lifting days to allow the muscles more time to rest. Remember that your aerobics days are intended to burn calories and improve muscle definition, not to directly increase muscle density themselves; you don't have to push yourself to achieve muscle development though high-intensity aerobics if your don't feel up to it.

Post-Workout Recovery

    Perform five to 15 minutes of cool-down exercises such as walking and stretching after lifting and aerobics to avoid cramps and injury. This will help your muscles to relax after strenuous exercise and will also assist with normalizing blood pressure and circulation until your heart rate returns to normal.

    Drink water or electrolyte recovery sports drinks after all workout sessions to avoid dehydration. You should also have a high-protein snack within an hour of your workout to provide additional protein for muscle development.

    Get plenty of rest on days when you've lifted or performed aerobics. Rest is essential to the healing process that creates dense muscle tissue and will help you to avoid injuries due to being tired the following day.


    • Though they are popular, protein supplements typically are not needed to increase muscle density unless you eat a low-protein diet. In most cases you will receive the protein that you need for muscle development through your regular diet and the snacks that you eat before and after your workouts. If you experience sore muscles after lifting or performing aerobics, take a day off to allow for additional rest if needed. You may also try getting a massage to ease the pain and relax the muscles that are hurting.


    • Always consult a doctor before beginning any new weight training or exercise program. Your health-care provider will provide you with a base weight and body composition test to track your results with and will also offer advice on how to safely progress while building muscle density.

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